Monday, June 16, 2014

Avengers Arena: Boss Level TPB

This hurts me to admit, but I was wrong about this one. I refused to purchase the title because of the exploitative nature of the premise, but as I’ve caught up with it on Marvel Unlimited, I can recognize what a good job Dennis Hopeless did turning lemons into lemonade.


In the end, Hopeless did most of his damage in the first issue when he killed Mettle. Sure, a few other character did die, but they were mostly characters that Hopeless created, or they were built up and Hopeless “earned” the right to kill them through strong characterization. Most importantly, my old favorite Darkhawk ends up alive and kicking. (Hopeless has stated in interviews why he handled Chris Powell the way he did. The interviews make me even happier with the end product.)

The series was full of nice surprises. I never expected Cammi and the Runaways to be so important to the resolution. Or frankly, so effective as heroes. Arcade successfully made his jump from C-lister to very possibly A-list villain. X-23, probably the biggest name in the series, spends much of the final trade in a chemically-induced rage and so can do very little to affect the outcome of the story.

Even the new characters have made an impact. I want to see more of Anachronism and Cullen Bloodstone. I want to know if Deathlocket is ever going to have a moment of control. I want to know if we’ve really seen the last of the series’ surprise villain.

Most of all, I find myself very interested in what happens next. Even after the great closure in seeing Hank Pym and the other teachers reunited with their students, I want to know how these damaged kids are going to survive. Back in the world after Arcade tells everyone what happened, can they handle being heroes? Hopeless leaves us hanging on quite a few characters; how badly is Darkhawk hurt? Is Reptil still alive? What will Arcade do next? I’m ready for the follow-up.

Not to overstate, but much of the impact of this book is due to the stellar artwork of Kev Walker. The passion and emotion of the faces of the cast have to do a lot of lifting in this series, and Walker’s art carries the load every time. The action is dynamic and exciting. The cliffhangers are perfect (although that is Hopeless’ script).

And Arcade… man, do I want to see him get his. We only got a tease, but that last page… somebody get him!

This comic is unexpectedly quite GOOD!

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